New details about the March 2019 attacks were outlined during the first day of a four-day sentencing hearing at the Christchurch High Court. The hearing gave some families and survivors their first chance to confront the gunman.
“You killed your own humanity, and I don’t think the world will forgive you for your horrible crime,” said a tearful Maysoon Salama, the mother of 33-year-old Atta Elayyan, who was killed in the attacks. “You thought you can break us. You failed miserably.”
The gunman, 29-year-old Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant, pleaded guilty in March to 51 counts of murder, 40 counts of attempted murder and one count of terrorism — the first terrorism conviction in New Zealand’s history.
He could become the first person in New Zealand to be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Tarrant was brought into the courtroom shackled and wearing a grey prison outfit. In the dock, unshackled and surrounded by five officers, he showed little emotion throughout the hearing. He occasionally looked around the room, tapped his fingers, and watched the survivors as they spoke.
The courtroom was only half full due to coronavirus distancing requirements, while many others watched from adjacent courtrooms where the hearing was streamed. Survivors and family members occasionally wept and comforted each other.
The hearing began with prosecutors outlining the attacks in a 26-page summary of facts, the first detailed account by authorities about what happened that day.
Crown prosecutor Barnaby Hawes said that two months before the attacks, Tarrant flew a drone directly over the Al Noor mosque, recording an aerial view of the grounds and buildings and taking note of the entry and exit doors.
Hawes said the gunman planned his attacks for when the maximum number of worshippers were present, and that 190 people were in the Al Noor mosque for Friday prayers on the day of the attacks.